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Dr. William Selden

Elmwood Cemetery
7th Alley East, Lots 30 & 32
3rd Alley East, Lot 60
2nd Alley East, Lot 26
1st Alley West, Lots 6 & 8
Cedar Grove
2nd Alley West, Lot 1

Dr. William Selden, the son of Dr. William Boswell Selden and Charlotte (Colgate) Selden, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, August 15, 1808. The house in which he was born had been built by his father, as a summer residence, in the previous year, and still stands at the southwest corner of Botetourt and West Freemason streets. William Selden was educated in the schools of his native city and at the University of Virginia and studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1830. He continued advanced work in medicine in London and Paris for several years and after returning to America began practicing in his native city. He devoted particular attention to internal diseases and enjoyed an extensive reputation as a diagnostician throughout the South. His wide experience in matters of public health, particularly in regard to yellow fever, with which he had come closely in touch in the epidemic of 1855, led to his appointment by Congress in 1878 on the commission of experts to investigate the nature and cause of that disease, but he was prevented from serving by failing health. He was for several years also a member of the town council and board of health of Norfolk. During his early career he was offered professorships in the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania, but was unable to accept them.

Unfortunately Dr. Selden wrote very little, most of his productions being short articles published in medical magazines. His two best known are "The History of the Yellow Fever Epidemic in 1855 in Norfolk," and his paper on '"Fractures of the Neck of the Femur;" in the latter paper he reported some of the earliest recorded cases of bony union as a result of the now recognized method of treatment.

Although deeply deploring the necessity for secession he was loyal to his state and accepted an appointment as physician in the Confederate service, serving in the hospitals at Liberty, Virginia. He was one of the founders and first president of the Norfolk Medical Society and was at one time vice president of the Medical Society of Virginia. Dr. Selden died in Norfolk, November 7, 1887.

In 1836 Dr. Selden married Lucinda Pope Wilson, daughter of Dr. Daniel Wilson, of Louisville, Kentucky. William Boswell Selden, oldest of their nine children, was born in 1837 and graduated as a Civil Engineer from the Virginia Military Institute. At the outbreak of the civil war he was appointed first lieutenant of engineers in the Confederate army and was assigned to the construction of the fortifications around Norfolk and later had charge of the building of the fortifications on Roanoke Island. On February 7, 1862, the Federal army began an attack at this point. As the Confederate army was short of artillery officers, Lieutenant Selden volunteered his services and was given charge of one of the guns. For four hours he held back the Federal advance, but was finally shot by sharpshooters detailed for that purpose. Colonel Shaw, his commanding officer, wrote to Dr. Selden "from the commencement of the action to the moment of his fall he handled his gun with a skill and intrepid spirit, which enlisted the admiration of all who witnessed his conduct; for hours, calm and undaunted amid the storm of deadly missiles, he stood by his piece until at length the fatal ball was sped, which deprived you of a son, of whom you may well have been proud, and the country of a brave and patriotic soldier." The other children of Dr. and Mrs. Selden were: Henrietta Wilson, Julia Smith, Charlotte Colgate, Mary, Louisa, Thomas Wilson, Caroline and Lucy. Mary, the only one of Dr. Selden's children to marry, became the wife of Cyrus Wiley Grandy, a banker and merchant of Norfolk. Their children, of whom the first and third died in infancy, were: William, Charles Rollin, Julia, William Boswell, Cyrus Wiley and Mary.*

The Selden Arcade on Main Street in Norfolk is named after the Selden family.

*Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, edited by Lyon Gardiner Tyler, 1915.

Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries.

Visitor Information

Visitor Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

Office hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Free parking inside cemetery.

Admission Cost: Free

Address: 238 E. Princess Anne Road , Norfolk, VA 23510

Official web site for more information: www.norfolk.gov/cemeteries

Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation Web Site: www.norfolksocietyforcemeteryconservation.org